It sits above the doorway in the office, taunting me. It sits above
the doorway, daring me to train. It sits above the doorway, and stares
me down. It sits above the doorway...
I can't help it. I'm a climber. It's in my genes. I have to hang on
it. I have to do pull-ups on it. I have to climb.
But the reality is that hanging on a hangboard is not climbing.
Hangboards are supposed to be for training. In truth hangboards are one
of the best ways climbers have devised to obtain sports injuries.
I know only too well. One day I succumbed to the devious taunts of the
board and began to train on it. I succumbed and pulled something in
my ring finger.
After doing a little research I discovered that I probably
injured one of the pulleys in my finger. A great website called climbinginjuries.com
provided me with everything that I needed to know in order to get
better. They indicated that I had a pulley injury in my finger and they
identified three levels of pulley injury.
Grade III: A grade three injury
usually involves a complete rupture of the pulley creating bowstringing
of the tendon. Symptoms of this severe soft tissue injury includes
local pain in the pulley, swelling or even bruising, pain when
squeezing, pain when extending the finger, and most disturbingly those
who get this injury often hear a pop inside their finger.
Grade II: A grade two injury is
identified by a partial rupture of the pulley tendon. This injury is
characterized by local pain at the pulley, pain when squeezing and
occasionally pain when extending a finger.
Grade I: A
grade one injury is characterized by local pain at the pulley, pain
when squeezing and a sprain of the finger ligaments (collateral
These injuries can be quite serious. Some people may require
months to recover from a Grade III pulley rupture. Climbinginjuries.com
has a prescribed method for treatment:
Go buy some TheraPutty! All
orthopedic doctors and physical therapists will recommend putty as a
tool for successful recovery. (2) The fingers
generally receive poor blood flow so getting blood to the injured area is important. Contrast
baths have had mixed results in the literature, but it wouldn't hurt to
try. To do a contrast bath, get a bowl of warm water, and cold water.
Put injured finger in cold water for a few minutes, then place it immediately in the
warm water for a few minutes. Repeat 3-5 times. Finish with the cold
water. This could be done after squeezing the putty ball to "flush out"
the injured joint. Massaging the effected area can be effective as
well. Start out lightly and
gradually increase the pressure.
Grade III: - Immediately- Stop climbing
Apply ice or cold immediately, no more than 15 minutes at a time (1-2
days) Take ibuprofen for 1- 2 day Keep the hand elevated Week 1-2 Don't
climb! Don't immobilize the finger. Unless there is a lot of pain,
open and close your hand often VERY light massage at the site of the
injury. Concentrate on other aspects of your life. Week 4-8 Warm the
hands by use of a bath or an electric blanket, then squeeze the yellow
(softest) putty. Don't push it, if there's pain…stop. Repeat a few
times per day. Go to Grade II Treatment.
Grade II: (Week 1-2) No climbing
Warm the hands by use of a bath or an electric blanket, then squeeze
the red putty. Don't push it, if there's pain…stop. Repeat a few times
per day. Lubricate and lightly massage at the site of the injury. (Week 3-6) Tape the injured finger, stretch your forearms (this relieves
the stress on the finger tendons) and climb the biggest holds you can find. Start easy,
this will be the quickest way to recovery. If you climb too hard, too fast, then
return to the start of Grade 2 and do not collect $200. Always stretch
your forearms after warming up and prior to climbing. Start squeezing
the medium to firm putty. Lubricate and massage the finger at the site
of the injury a couple of times/day. Start lightly and gradually
increase the intensity using very short strokes on the injured site. Go
to Grade I Treatment
Grade I (Week 1) Tape the injured finger and continue to climb at a level well
below your normal level. Gradually increase the stresses on the
fingers. Stretch your forearms after warming up and prior to climbing. This relieves the stress on the
finger tendons. Squeeze the medium to firm putty a few times per day.
Lubricate and massage the finger at the site of the injury. Start light
and gradually increase intensity. Very short strokes on the injured site. Expected outcome Take
advice from a practitioner who specializes in climbing. However, if
treated early and effectively, with an appropriately graded return to
activity, recovery will usually take 3-8 weeks. However, if the injury
is pushed beyond its stage of recovery, re-injury will occur and may result in a chronic injury that
will require a much more protracted rehabilitation period.
The best way to recover from a
finger injury is to avoid getting hurt in the first place. Here are a
few rules to live by:
warm up on easy climbs. Don't jump straight onto the hardest thing you
can get up.
Stretch your fingers.
Don't overtrain. If you are climbing hard then you should probably
avoid climbing every day. Strong sport climbers will often climb
every other day.
Stretch your fingers again.
Massage your forearms between burns.
Stretch your fingers more.
Sooner or later my finger will heal up and when it does I'll train
more consciously. The hangboard definitely requires a bit more care.
The last thing I need is another finger injury to crimp my crimping